While much of the attention is on the new main event between Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal, the lead play-by-play voice of the UFC is just as excited for the other two world title fights set for this Saturday night.
“When we sat down with ‘Volko’ during the first Holloway fight, he sort of has this feeling, as a lot of guys do going into their first UFC title fight against a long-reigning champion, that he was going to have to beat Max Holloway twice,” Anik told MMA Fighting while appearing on a recent episode of What the Heck.
Volkanovski snapped Holloway’s impressive 14-fight divisional winning streak via unanimous decision. “The Great” enters the first “Fight Island” event on an incredible 18-fight winning streak that goes back over six years. In fact, the last time the 31-year-old tasted defeat, it was in his fourth professional fight in May 2013.
While a lot of fans and pundits are focused on the adjustments Holloway will have to make in order to regain his title, Anik is just as captivated with Volkanovski’s game plan heading into his first title defense.
“I’m not saying that Eugene Bareman and the City Kickboxing guys held back necessarily the first time around, but they knew they were going to have to beat this guy twice,” Anik explained. “Perhaps, a lot of people are focusing on the Holloway adjustments and not thinking about Volkanovski’s game plan and how he would approach a second fight differently.
“I’m fascinated to see what the consensus greatest featherweight of all-time, Max Holloway can do to try and force the issue, and try to make this a different fight.”
In the first matchup, Volkanovski swept the first three rounds on all scorecards. While one judge gave the championship stanzas to the now-reigning champ, the others scored those rounds 10-9 for Holloway.
Anik, admittedly not a judge, sides with the former.
“Even though he did rally late, one of those judges had it 50-45 for ‘Volko,’” Anik said. “He gave Volkanovski all five rounds and I kind of saw it that way, too. Maybe there was a round for Max in there late, but I saw an argument that Volkanovski had a clean sweep that night.
“Holloway’s got to make a lot of adjustments. I think Volkanovski will come with a tweaked game plan as well. I’m just absolutely fascinated by championship rematches, anyway.”
The championship triple header on Yas Island kicks off with a vacant bantamweight title bout between Petr Yan and former 145-pound king Jose Aldo. “No Mercy” has won nine straight—six of which were in the octagon—as he looks to capture his first UFC title against a true legend of the game.
While there’s a huge main event at the top of the bill between Usman and Masvidal, Anik is reminding fans that there’s a lot to like on this stacked UFC 251 card.
“For Petr Yan, what a stud, man,” he said. “If he can beat Jose Aldo to begin the Yan era, no better way to do it.
“As much as I have to do to get to Abu Dhabi in terms of nasal swabs and everything else, I can’t wait to see these fights play out on the island.”